Monthly Archives: April 2012

Something to help people on the journey of grief….

Robin Palmer's space

Reading: Psalm 23;  John 10:11-18

There’s a story of a little girl who came home late from school one day. Her mother was furious and went on and on for about five minutes ranting and raving at the girl. Finally she stopped and asked, “Why were you late anyway?”  To which the girl replied, “I was helping another girl in trouble.”

“What did you do for her?” asked the mother.  “Oh, I just sat down beside her and helped her cry.”

 Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote this:   “Still, when we honestly ask ourselves  which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is  those who, instead of giving much  advice, solutions, or cures, have  chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion…

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Sunday 29 April – Reconciliation

Preacher today:  Mike Ashburner

Readings:  Psalm 63:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:16-21; Ephesians 2:11-22;Matthew.5:23-24

Introduction: Reconciliation is such a relative term today.

No-one can fully grasp its implications.

Anzac day just past – remembers the fallen ones but also the reconciliation that took place in times of peace.

The organized or commissioned reconciliation is a farce.

The obvious result only show wounds, but no healing.

We see it so evident in the futile attempts the law courts impose on victims and perpetrators.

The Church follows this line only too often.

Any forced or contrived reconciliation process is doomed to fail.

The Church – The Christian community does not truly practice reconciliation –

The results are shown so often in no healing of relationships.

The Altar/Table of Our Lord is supposed to be the central place of unity but is the place where bitter divisions are in existence between Christians.

St Paul records a stern warning of the communion participants – If coming to the table in the wrong spirit – we face terrible judgement – where some have become sick and even have died.

We need to heed the injunction of the scripture applicable to leaders and people alike:

1 Corinthians 11: 26-31

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.

For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.

This is one scary thought. One certain conclusion is: 

THERE CAN BE NO REAL AND TRUE RECONCILIATION WITHOUT CHRIST. 

Any other form of reconciliation either does not succeed or ultimately becomes Vengeful on those seeking it.

So what is Reconciliation?

A. Reconciliation is – Letting Go

This means getting rid of enmity and healing broken relationships.

It implies that persons concerned were previously hostile to one another and that alienation between them has been removed.

Holding a grudge – who suffer the most?

B.  Reconciliation is costly

Before it can happen we have to face the problem.

Reconciliation is much more than saying: “Let’s forget about what divided us and be friends”.

Reconciliation is a sham as long as what created the division in the first place remains unchanged.

We have to apologize for what we have done; pay back what we have taken, and repair what is broken or put things right in some other way.

We cannot just ignore the problem or pretend it’s not there.

Whatever it costs to put things right is the price we must be prepared to pay.

Certainly when God acted to reconcile us to Him self it was a costly thing.

The Easter Cross reminds us how costly it was for Jesus.

C.  Reconciliation is with God

Scripture tells us bluntly that sinners are enemies of God (Rom.5:10; Col.1:21).

An enemy is not someone who is merely a little unfriendly.

They are totally opposed to us.

In other words, because our sin, our separation from GOD is a radical one,

Like a deep chasm which we are not able to bridge.

However it is at this point of our helplessness that God has taken the initiative and opened a new way of love for us through the cross.

Although we don’t deserve it, we can come back to Him and have Fellowship with Him.

It is here that the Christian Gospel stands in radical contrast to other faiths.

No other religion in the world preaches the sheer grace of God in this way.

D.  Reconciliation is with others

The amazing attitude of God in reconciling us with Himself must be reflected in new attitudes to others.

Our behaviours need to change.

Our new relationship with God must in turn transform our relationships with others.

We need to forgive – To love our enemies as Jesus said – To seek reconciliation with those from whom we have been estranged.

It means fighting a “war of love” against things like hatred selfishness and revenge.

In Christ all the barriers which separated us from others must be destroyed.

Things like racial prejudice – Class distinction – Sex or social status and any other barrier –

They have no place in the kingdom of God.

If we continue to hold onto them, then we have no place in the kingdom of God.

We who have been reconciled to God must also share in God’s work of bringing reconciliation to the world.

Our wholeness in Christ must be clearly seen in the community life of the Church so the world may believe that what we preach is true  (John.17:20-23).

The world needs love and community where people are patent and tolerant of each other – The Christian Church is the world’s only hope.

Conclusion

From this God is calling us to do something about it.

Is there someone towards whom you have bad feelings?

Someone you find hard to forgive or who you have a grudge against

A relationship that has gone sour.

Make a sincere attempt this week to be reconciled to that person and restore your relationship. (Mt 5 23-24)

Pray about it before you do any thing.

Maybe you have tried before and been unsuccessful.

Try again for Jesus sake – for your sake – and yes for the sake of the desperately lost world.

Amen

Sunday 22 April – Telling stuff

Message

Readings:  Acts 3:12-19  and   Luke 24:36-49

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost a year ago I preached a great sermon on repentance. The text was from the Acts account of Pentecost where the words of Peter “cut them to the heart” and they asked “what must I do to be saved?” Peter’s answer was, of course “repent and be baptised”.

Here’s what I said:

Repentance has two essential meanings

OT – SHUB – to turn or change direction.

NT – METANOEO– a change of mind.

We talked a lot on that day about the mind.

Of course some of you weren’t here last year on that day. Some of you were here but you weren’t all there at the time! And most of you who were here will have forgotten. The mind is indeed a complicated organ. It’s amazing how many other things you remember that are unhelpful!

My guess is that if someone who was dead came back to life and spoke to you – you would probably remember what he said!

Or for that matter – turn it around – if someone was dying, you would listen to their last words!

And so – Jesus – in this another account of his resurrection appearances – had something really important to say.

At school we had this headmaster who used to say – “this is important – sit up now and listen carefully”:

HERE IT IS: 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

It’s like a prophetic statement of what would happen! It’s not unlike the great commission Matthew records at the end of his gospel:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Or for that matter John’s version of Pentecost which we heard last week:

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Or Luke in Acts 1: 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

When Jesus came back from the dead – and before he left again at his Ascension – these were KEY WORDS about the job he was to give his followers.

Go and make disciples – I am sending you – you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.

One way or another Jesus gave his followers the task of carrying out his ministry – being witnesses – preaching the good news of the Kingdom – preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name!

What did we say about repentance almost a year ago? It means

OT – SHUB – to turn or change direction. NT – METANOEO – a change of mind.

It requires change – a change of thinking and direction. Priorities and purpose.

The first reading today has a similar sermon – Peter was banging on about repentance as well to another audience.

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord – says Peter.

The gospel – the good news – that the early church shared was about Jesus and the resurrection. The RESPONSE that this brought was REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS through FAITH.

Once people had heard this message they didn’t go and have tea and coffee.

They RESPONDED in action. In the action of repentance.

IT’S THE CHANGE OF MINDS THAT I AM INTERESTED IN!

Being open-minded is essential for us to figure out God’s will for us. Remember the key verse from the reading from Acts last week?

Act 4:32  – “All the believers were one in heart and mind”

THE FUTURE – HOW OPEN MINDED ARE YOU? 

What is the essence of our task?

TO BE WITNESSES – sent ones (missionaries) – wherever we are.

  • For some it will be in our home town (Jerusalem) and our home church or community.  Or simply at home! Which can be the hardest place to be a witness.
  • The areas of Judea – a wider area of influence (perhaps work and social sphere);
  • Samaria – cross cultural or outside our geographical zone!
  • The ends of the earth – wherever he sends us! Coming here from Africa was like the ends of the earth for us!

HOW OPEN ARE YOU?

The disciples had fixed ideas too!

And case you think that the transformation only happened after Pentecost, look at verses 44 and 45

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

  • He worked on their thinking! He responded to their personal needs (as we saw with the restoration of Peter and the encounter with Thomas the Honest doubter.)
  • He told them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit!
  • And when the Spirit came in power they were transformed and empowered – made bold!

So here’s the test:

  1. Have you repented and changed your direction and your mind – turning away from your way to the Lord’s way – in faith and lifestyle?
  2. Have you heard what he said to his followers about being witnesses?
  3. Will you be a witness?
  4. What will you say?

People use opportunities to tell you stuff all the time.

What do you share with them? What is your TESTIMONY?  What are you a witness to?

I think this is very challenging. I’ll give you an example. I had a haircut this week. And when someone has sharp implements and is attacking you with them, you tend to behave. So I didn’t really argue with the hairdresser’s views on mercy killing while she had those sharp things in her hands. I was empathetic off course because one of her clients had died – and his death had been undignified. But I didn’t introduce my ideas into that conversation. Perhaps I was a bit worried about chunks being cut off my ear. She had a story to tell!

What’s the heart of our story? As witnesses? Surely at a basic level it’s about the love of God for me?

A GREAT PLACE TO START: Perhaps the key – the doorway into the conversation – is found in this verse:

1Pe 3:15  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Now the context is different really. The Christians at the time of Peter’s letter – the same Peter who we heard preaching in the Acts reading – were being persecuted.

And in that context he teaches them to “give a reason for the hope that you have” with gentleness and respect – and he goes on:

1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I should think that the conversation starts when people see that you have a hope that is different!

So perhaps we need to review our grumpy levels in life! If we are miserable people will hardly see us as different and hopeful!

THIS IS A JOURNEY

I think it’s enormously challenging. I read this week about how we have domesticated church – fitting it in to our busy lives – making it subservient to family – to work – to money. As a Session (the church elders) we too are going on a journey to discover from God what kind of church He wants us to be.

At the heart of this is BEING WITNESSES. We need to tell the story. The early disciples were pioneers in a movement – which in time became an institution. We are part of an institution – and God is starting a new movement.

Some practical hints and tips in telling your story:

  1. Keep a clear conscience – is about your reputation and behaviour! What kind of example are you?
  2. Tell your story with gentleness and respect (says Peter)
  3. Start where you are! Be a witness  with the people in your neighbourhood now!
  4. Read your Bible – see what Jesus did! Do those kinds of things!
  5. Pray and serve!
  6. Always be ready to tell others why you have this hope! How God makes a difference in you!

A NEW REPENTANCE MAY BE REQUIRED!

Genuine repentance on our part involves turning away from WRONG IDEAS! When it comes to sharing our faith we probably need to repent as well of these ideas:

  1. It’s someone else’s responsibility! (wrong – it’s all of our responsibility!)
  2. Apathy is bad! (sorry Lord – we can be like this too!)
  3. Indifference is worse! People need to hear the story because they matter!
  4. Selfishness is sinful! Keeping the good news for me alone is like not sharing food with starving people!

A SHORT EASY VERSION OF THIS COULD BE:

  • Live out the story
  • Tell the story
  • Share the love of Jesus that is at the heart of the GOSPEL STORY!

HAVE I CONVINCED YOU? The Holy Spirit will have to CONVICT YOU! Your mind will come up with lots of reasons why this is too hard!

To end with this a favourite verse – Paul teaches us that the mind continues to need that transformation: 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

May your mind be changed! This is telling stuff! A story that needs to be told indeed!

Sunday Sermon 15 April – finding and following Jesus

Readings: Acts 4:32-35; John 20:19-31

Act 4:32  All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all

Act 4:34  that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

Act 4:35  and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Joh 20:19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Joh 20:20  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Joh 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Joh 20:22  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Joh 20:23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Joh 20:24  Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

Joh 20:25  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Joh 20:26  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Joh 20:27  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Joh 20:28  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Joh 20:29  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Joh 20:30  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

Joh 20:31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

MESSAGE

So we’re building loving communities that help people find and follow Jesus!

We saw a “Where’s Wally” puzzle this week. I’m glad I didn’t have to attempt it – or to find Wally!

Finding Jesus is an interesting idea. It assumes one of two things (or both I guess)

  • People are looking for Jesus
  • Jesus is lost!

Are people really on a search today? For fame maybe – or fortune. Money or meaning in life. Or meaning in money or mammon (the Bible’s term for worldly wealth) – the power of consumerism is still a major challenge. I suspect they are looking for something really – although many are not cognitively searching but rather surviving. Most families should not be vilified, though – they are working hard and providing for their children in an admirable way. Making ends meet, is the common term used.

The early church is sometimes set up as a model or paradigm for us today – on the assumption that there are enough similarities between people then and this generation to cause us to aim to be like the early church in every way.

Whether we aspire to be like the early church or not – we are very different. For example:

  • Few of us are Jewish (as in Acts 4)
  •  – verse 32 is challenging: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”
  •  We are not there yet. Put a bunch of Presbyterians together and it’s more like a fruit salad – often in the same bowl but not much agreement!
  • Few of us liquidate our assets and lay the funds at the feet of their spiritual leaders. There were no needs in the community because of this giving
  • Few of us can have this said of us: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.”

The story of Easter and the resurrection had clearly galvanised them into a powerful little group who were counter-cultural in a lot of ways. I think we are challenged by this passage from Acts – if we want community we need to broaden our thinking.

The Gospel reading today gives us a clue about how people connect to Jesus and Jesus to people. There are two things that spoke to me as I read this passage again:

  • Jesus offered peace to the people he encountered. As the Prince of peace that makes sense. I’m not sure that we reflect that – we are often like people on the warpath with our opinions and views.  Jesus declares “peace be with you” and shows them his hands and side. Why? He’s pointing them to the reality of the resurrection.  It was to this startling fact that the early church in the book of Acts pointed too. Listen again to what we heard: Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.
  •  Jesus offered a personal relationship to those who struggled to believe. Like Thomas – who unfortunately is remembered as “doubting Thomas” rather than “Honest Thomas”.

So what was Thomas battling with? The resurrection I should think. He wanted evidence – he wanted to see for himself and touch those wounds.

Thomas wasn’t there the first time. A week later Jesus does one of those Houdini acts – not escaping from a locked room but getting into one again. And he speaks to Thomas:

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Even the men on the A team had things they had to work through!

I wonder if it’s too big a step to take to say that Jesus still wants to speak peace into our lives and to speak to our individual needs and doubts – and our fears.

We may well be in some locked rooms too – and we may be surprised that Jesus might want to join us and engage us in a conversation. Make a connection.

I don’t think faith comes easily for some people. It’s possible that more of us are like Thomas than we are honest enough to admit. So we hide our thoughts and feelings – afraid of our own authorities – our leaders perhaps who we think will pounce on us if we are uncertain – or at least if we don’t exhibit their great faith.

That’s why it’s really important that we don’t preach at each other – forcing our particular way of seeing things on others. There’s nothing more discouraging than a simplistic “well if you would only obey Jesus – He will sort it all out and everything will be fine”.

“Trust and obey” is a lot easier to sing than to do when things are tough.

If I was going to sing a song in times of trouble – I would rather see Jesus as a “bridge over troubled waters” or I would prefer “what a friend we have in Jesus” praying – “bear my griefs Lord”.  Or I would sing “Still” which is one of my favourites right now:

Hide me now
Under Your wings
Cover me
Within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father You are king over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

The Jesus we present to the world – and the Jesus that should be seen in our communities (and I am thinking of small groups mostly where community really works – someone once said there is no such thing as a congregation – it’s just a collection of small groups) – the Jesus we present and should see:

  • IS the Jesus who causes there to be no needs – where people liquidate assets to make sure others have what they need – because of compassion and kindness and sacrificial living – and of course the clear idea from His teaching that treasure on earth is not the main thing – rather eternal treasure in heaven!

The Jesus we present and should see:

  • IS the Jesus therefore that makes it possible for our communities to be truly loving – honest – sorting out things – caring enough to face the truths of our messy lives in a safe place. How do you think they managed to get to that place where there were no needs among them? Simple – they talked about their needs! SO different from us who put our private use of money in a “private” basket.  Funny thing is that Jesus spoke of what we do with our money a lot!

The Jesus we present and should see:

  •  IS the Jesus who shows up in the rooms we try to hide in and says PEACE BE WITH YOU. You can’t really open your life to this peace unless you acknowledge the storm! The moment people say to me (of something really messy) – Ah it’s all sorted – then I know they’re probably hiding it away – that pride is probably winning the war!

The Jesus we present and should see:

  • IS the Jesus who knows exactly what your doubts and fears are and will meet you at your point of need.
  •  IS the Jesus who is so fascinating and attractive – so intriguing and so loving – that people will be drawn to Him when they see Him in us!

What an enormous challenge! Are we remotely like Jesus?

Are you? Do want to be? Is it worth the cost?

And is the Jesus we present this Jesus? Or some other kind of person cut out from a few verses of the Bible?

What amazing love – what sacrifice – the Son – the One Son of God – given for me! Taking my deepest pains and fears and anxieties to himself!

So that I can be free!

When we break the bread today – when you take some bread – if you dare to take it – you may well be taking the risk of becoming like that body – broken!

This Lord of all says he calls us friends.

The Creator of all becomes a servant – and calls us to serve too.

This greatest Lover of the world – calls us to love others too – no matter what we think about their theology or worship – their faith or lack of faith – their beliefs or their doubts.

When they find and follow Jesus – the most amazing things can happen.

When we find this Jesus – and discover what He is really like – and follow Him – who knows how exciting that can be!

And so:

Joh 20:19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Joh 20:20  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Joh 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 

Easter Sunday sermon 2012 – Resurrection

Readings: Acts 10:34-43;  1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 21:1-11

MESSAGE

I wonder how often you have been in a mortuary?

They are quite peculiar really. I remember my first visit really well. There is something about the temperature and the smell that has always stayed with me.

I’ve spent many hours in undertaker’s offices and rooms full of coffins.

I’ve always been friends with undertakers. Few people hang out with them. And probably the hardest funeral I had to do was of a young undertaker who died suddenly.

Brian was a lovely guy. And the hall was filled with funeral people, ambulance people, and police people from their mortuary – and those who scrape bodies off the roads after they are run over.

Somehow having all those people together and trying to be positive was really hard!

At a conference of chaplains two years back the most profound speaker was – you’ve guessed it – an undertaker. He was in charge of putting the bodies from the Erebus disaster into a respectable state for the families. He was an expert embalmer – if you’ve ever watched SIX FEET UNDER you’ll know that they get some interesting scenarios.

I’ve had some interesting ones too – like the dear man who dropped dead in the bathroom – I took a young intern who was working with me to help get him out a very tricky house. They seemed to specialise in sending one undertaker to the tricky ones – and of course we didn’t know what to do with Dennis’ teeth that had landed on the floor. We popped them on top of him before the blanket was closed.

Bizarre you may say. So why this gloomy start to the most positive day in the Christian year?

Well just because of the radical nature of the story today!

I’ve only had one case of an enthusiastic person going to the undertakers place and commanding the dead to get up! The dead person didn’t of course – although there are accounts of resurrections around the world. I even met a man who had been dead for some days and was raised at his funeral. His stories were interesting – he was a Nigerian pastor.

Death is very final – those of you who have lost loved ones will know!

Resurrection is mind-blowing. And yet there is this solid witness and conviction that it was real – there are hundreds of eye witnesses of Jesus’ after the third day – and it’s central to our faith!

Why are we not very excited about it?

There was a time when we seemed to sing more songs about it too!

The fact that they were slow to recognise him at times is not surprising. I remember thinking that I’d seen a friend who had died. He was about 18 at the time. I’d gone with his parents to see him in the coffin. He was very dead. And when I thought I saw him – usually in places where we’d hung out together – it was weird. And it wasn’t real.

When it struck them that it was real – when they got past the disability to take the witness of women seriously – when they had gone into the tomb – or ate fish on the beach – or touched Jesus’ hands and side (whatever they needed to do) – it must have been a completely surreal kind of place to be – both psychologically and spiritually.

  • From failure to fame!
  • From death to delight!
  • From fear to frenzy!
  • From grief to ecstasy and unbridled joy!

And then those days when they thought it all through – the prophecies about the temple being destroyed and raised up – the betrayal, denial, running away and falling asleep instead of praying – the emotional turmoil of the week from the adulation of the crowd on the donkey day – to the venomous rage and baying for blood – the questions about the point of it all – all of this seemed to race around in their heads all at once.

When someone dies it makes you sick inside. Imagine what it would feel like for us if they were back!

But this was no Lazarus-type resurrection – Lazarus had to die again.

This was a break through into the Kingdom – a new life and existence altogether.

  • Not a ghost – although he appeared in locked rooms
  • Not a person eating fish at a barbeque alone – because he appeared in locked rooms
  • Not the same and not totally different
  • Not recognised in some ways – but in the breaking of bread OBVIOUSLY him
  • Not to be kept but to be farewelled  later
  • Not to leave  – but to be there through his Holy Spirit
  • Not to be booked through an international booking system – but connected to each believer in an instant messengering system beating all email, text and facebook combined
  • Not to be rabbi of a few but saviour of the world
  • Not to be good news for the followers of the way alone – but the gospel to be shared with those near and far, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

So do you want to live in a mortuary?

It’s cold and it smells!

It’s a waiting zone for burial or cremation and the process of grief and goodbye.

Resurrection is not just about life after death either!

Luke writes these words in Acts 10:

Act 10:39  “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross,

Act 10:40  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.

Act 10:41  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

Act 10:42  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.

Act 10:43  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 

  • The judge of the living and the dead!
  • The one though whose name we receive forgiveness of sins!

It is through this gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are saved – rescued – delivered from our selves, our sins, our selfishness, our stupidity, our sadness, our shock when we realise that we too will end up in a mortuary – cold and stiff with a tag more than likely attached to our toes.

And who will claim us? Who will identify us as his own? If we open our hearts to Him – it will be Jesus!

We are not just souls saved! We believe in the resurrection of the body! We will be us – I will be me – restored, renewed, and revitalised completely for a new world!

We have to start at the grave however!

To recognise that we need new life! Resurrection life which also begins in this life – as does eternal life!

  • We had nothing to do with the resurrection – it took place without any help or comment from us, says Peterson, which keeps us from attempting to take charge of our own development and growth (PR p8).
  • Meditating on the resurrection, he says “ prevents us from reducing the language of our conversation to what we can define or control”.

Ever seen an animal play dead? It’s a strategy in which the creatures hope that their enemy will walk away.

We are dead. Dead in our sins.  Dead without Christ.  And we can be raised to new life!

We don’t live from below – we are born from above! While the world will always tell you who has died (especially the rich and famous) it seldom says anything about those who are born from above.

The church is called to be people of resurrection

  • Indwelled by the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead
  • Sent by Jesus into the world of death with a  message of life
  • Living as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and people of the Kingdom (which is here in fits and starts – giving glimpses of a wholeness yet to come.)

I reckon Jesus wants to hang out with us and help us to dump our dead-end ideas and fears.

I suspect that prayer can become a barbeque on the beach with him doing the cooking – if we are powerless in the face of death then why try to save ourselves and cook it for him?

Even our prayers can be so controlling – our shopping lists and litany of complaints – when they could be a question of asking him what’s on the menu!

STORY

There is a story of a bunch of kids who were touring a church for a Religious Education project – and they came to those boards with lists of names of dead people. “What’s that” asked a boy of the pastor. “Those are the names of people who died in the services” he replied. The boy, getting his head around what churches do, was pleased to come up with his next question: “which ones, morning or evening services?”

There’s no chance of dying in the service here! Is there?

I said recently that there are costs to following Jesus. That most of his disciples died in service of their Lord! We to will die physically. But the most significant thing is that we die to our old life and are raised up with Jesus – living a new life with Him!

May this be true of us this resurrection Sunday!

Hang out with Jesus on a beach or something.

Take time out to consider what he has done for you and what that means for your life now and forever!

Praise his name!

Easter Sunday Sermon 2011 – review and reminder

Readings: John 21:1-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Sermon:

Do you remember the song:  “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”

Here it is:

I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Look all around there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead nothing but blue skies

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
I can see clearly now the rain has gone
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sunshiny day
Test time – who wrote the song? Johnny Nash. When? 1972. If you know that – you’re no spring chicken, pardon the pun.

It ages me – and many of you! It’s a song that has a melody that sticks – like many older songs there is a melody of sorts!

When thinking about Mary on Easter Sunday – this song came to mind.

It’s the seeing clearly thing that intrigues me.

Do we see things clearly? Or is our judgment and view of life confused?

I want to suggest that the resurrection is in fact the lens through which we should be seeing everything.

So back to Mary to see this – a woman who knew sin and forgiveness – and the amazing grace through which Jesus takes the most broken of us and restores us to health again – in the sense of being whole forgiven and reborn people.

It’s dark when she gets to the tomb. In John’s account anyway. Mark’s Gospel places this visit “very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,”

I suspect that John’s reflection places this in the dark for good reason – the theme of light and darkness in his gospel is central.

But more than that – there is the darkness Mary is in. How hard it must have been for her to see the man die who had restored her to a dignified life. People who lose the plot through unhelpful choices – whose lives are burnt out and tainted by failure, or overwhelmed by darkness – who then find love or light only to lose it again – are in danger of a deeper darkness.

You only have to work with the depressed to see that – or feel it, because it’s too dark to see.

Writers have suggested that the darkness is Mary’s darkness. And the exciting thing is the way in which it lifts! Listen to her words initially:

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

She is in mourning and doing what one would do with the dead – seeking to complete an appropriate burial with dignity. Part of the indignity of crucifixion – apart from being stripped naked – was that often people’s bodies were not buried – but left to rot or be consumed by wild animals.

It’s the body she is looking for. It’s still dark for her.

Confused and shocked, she runs to the leaders of the group – Peter and John – announcing that the body’s gone.

It’s good that two men are fetched. Mary’s testimony as a woman in those days would not have been valid – it required two men. Such was the prejudice of the day that two partially blind men would have been accepted as witnesses, I suspect, rather than one woman with 20=20 vision.

The men are not much better. They’re not seeing clearly either. John – the writer of the gospel writing about himself – says this:

Joh 20:8  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Joh 20:9  (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

And then they go home – a clear sign that the lights are not completely on in their minds either. Probably went home to think about it. They certainly aren’t telling people the good news at this point. There’s no proclamation like ours – THE LORD HAS RISEN! HE HAS RISEN INDEED.

Mary stays there. She looks inside the tomb – and gets much more than she bargained for. It’s a lovely thing – that she sees angels. Even though the angels don’t shift her emotions.  Joh 20:13  They ask(ed) her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Still looking for the body. Someone’s put the body somewhere –disposed of it in an inappropriate way.

Then she sees another someone, who says.

Joh 20:15  “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Still in the dark. Mary. Until she hears the voice – the personal call of her name:

 Joh 20:16  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turn (s) (ed) toward him and cries (cried) out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

One can hear the words of John elsewhere in the gospel:

Jesus words:  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (10:3-4).

Mary calls him “Rabboni!” Teacher!

There is recognition – that this really is the one who was dead. It doesn’t matter what the scholars say about the words – whether kyrie – translated as “Lord” or “Sir” is higher or lower than “Rabboni” – Teacher – is higher than Sir and less than Lord.

Anybody dealing with a dead person coming alive again would take time to figure out the theological implications and the title doesn’t matter.

“I have seen the Lord” is the stuff of transformation! Death is overcome. Grief is dispelled. Life is changed forever.

The resurrection is the lens by which we see the world from that day on.

And here’s the curious thing – even though our faith depends on this amazing event from the past – the resurrection means that “The present is determined by the future not the past.”

This is the power of hope. The forgiving Jesus who took Mary as one of his disciples despite her shady past gives new impetus to her future. This woman sits down and tells the men! “And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

Some people think that men have been forced to listen to women every since! It settles the idea that women should or should not speak in church, I think!

But this is Mary the messed-up one – she is now the transformed person and the credible witness.

She is given the task to tell then. And she does!

And Jesus backs up her testimony by appearing to the others too – even to Thomas who needed the tactile experience and confirmation.

The resurrection is the lens through which we see the world as Christians. If an apparent defeat and horrendous flogging and execution of an innocent man can lead to a sublime and glorious victory – and a woman like Mary can say with such certainty “I have seen the Lord”, then we need to see our brokenness and despair from this point of view as well.

The present is determined by the future!

We live in anticipation of a complete transformation of all things!

 1Co 15:21  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive,

says St Paul.

 1Co 15:23  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

1Co 15:24  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

1Co 15:25  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

1Co 15:26  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

 I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Johnny Nash could see things better when the rain stopped and the clouds had gone.

The resurrection ends the misty rain and dark gloomy clouds of all kinds!

It makes no sense to watch 3D movies without the 3D lenses.

Once we’ve seen this – even though we have not seen the Lord like Mary – we have Jesus’ word to Thomas as a reminder:

Joh 20:29  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We can hear his voice! We can live lives with a completely different agenda! Because we are his agents ushering in a new order.

The Lord has Risen! He has risen indeed! Nothing but blue skies!!!

How are you doing this resurrection day?

Still in the dark? Still looking for the body? Hankering after the past?

Look to the future – and Jesus will take you into it and through it!

Amen.